herald

Monday 21 August 2017

Save our special needs club, say parents of teens

Parents of young people with Asperger's Syndrome said they are "devastated" by the threatened closure of a club.

Young people with the Asperger's condition find it almost impossible to make new friends and closing down their social club, that meets the specialised needs requirements, would be "enormously distressing" for them, two mothers told the Herald.

The Variety Club for special needs young people meets for two hours every Thursday evening at the Finglas Youth Resource Centre in Dublin.

Desperate

Parents said the board of the centre recently declared it intended to bring an end to the club's activities at the centre.

Families were recently called to a meeting and were told there was a great demand for use of the centre's facilities. They were told other groups usually use the centre for a year but this club for youths with various special needs has been running for four years.

Parents said it was indicated that the centre was intended for Finglas residents and only four or five club members of the 16 members were from Finglas.

But a strong response from desperate parents appears to have resulted in a deferral of moves to close down the special needs club.

Pauline Kavanagh, from Clonshaugh, whose son Daniel (20) has Asperger's, said: "Daniel had no friends growing up. People with his condition find it very hard to be sociable.

"If you saw the Rain Man movie, he has a mild version of that condition. Daniel needs routine in his life and he's been very distressed by talk of the closure. There will be a massive gap in his life if they close the club," she said.

Sandra Bolger, from Coolock, whose daughter Amy (17) attends the club, said: "Amy has Asperger's and she can't go anywhere on her own. She will just sit at home if it closes.

"Those two hours a week are the best thing that ever happened to her. They are treated like normal teenagers at the club and it has given them great confidence.

"No normal youth clubs in their own areas will be able to cater for them.

"There aren't enough people like Amy in any single area of Dublin to form local clubs and that is why they ended up in Finglas," she said.

Lynne O'Connor, project leader at Finglas Youth Resource Centre, said the centre's goal was to serve young people in the Finglas catchment area.

"There's a waiting list of local kids in other categories who have been turned away from the centre. Different local groups are seeking use of the centre, including homeless young people and those with drugs issues," she said.

Solution

Ms O'Connor said youth workers and volunteers had developed a successful relationship with the special needs young people.

"Our youth workers were very upset by plans to end it. Parents made a very strong case to continue it. There is no definite date now for closing it down. We are frantically looking around for a solution," said Ms O'Connor, who added that if parents volunteered to supervise at the centre it may be a possible solution.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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